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Oh Canada! Weir takes green jacket
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Lefty finally won a major.
Just not the guy anyone expected.
Mike Weir didn't rely on power and flair. This mini Maple Leaf is about tenacity and resiliency, two traits he leaned on Sunday to win the Masters after the first sudden-death playoff in 13 years.
Weir became the first Canadian to wear a green jacket, and the first left-hander in 40 years to win a major, by making clutch putts down the stretch and watching Len Mattiace self-destruct on the first extra hole.
Not bad, eh?
Six times over the final seven holes, Weir stood over crucial putts and made them all. Playing in the final group, he didn't have worse than a par in his round of 4-under 68. His only bogey came in the playoff, and it didn't matter.
"It was an incredible day," Weir said. "To go bogey-free at Augusta National on Sunday, I can't ask for anything more."
It required nothing less.
Mattiace brought drama back to the final nine holes with phenomenal shots that took him to the edge of a stunning victory with a 7-under 65.
Weir stands firm
Weir refused to buckle, making a 15-foot birdie on the 13th, stuffing a wedge into 5 feet on the 15th and making keys pars along the way, none bigger than the 6-footer he had on the 18th to force the playoff.
"It was probably the biggest shot of my life," he said.
Mattiace could have used a mulligan. He pulled his approach into the trees on No. 10 in the playoff, chipped 30 feet, nearly ran his par putt off the green and choked back tears when he realized what he had lost.
"I know one's going to win and one's going to lose, and I'm OK with that," Mattiace said, referring to the first playoff since Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd in 1990.
Tiger Woods made it to the green jacket ceremony for the third straight year, only this time he slipped the coveted prize around Weir's shoulders.
Only four strokes behind to start the final round, a chance to make history with his third straight Masters victory, Woods took double bogey on the third hole and was never a factor.
"No one has ever done it, so obviously it's been proven it's not easy to do," Woods said.
As he was finishing up, the show was just getting started.
Mattiace, who had to make a 6-footer on the 18th for bogey, was signing his card when he looked up and saw that Weir had pulled even on the 15th.
He was on the putting green, where chairs already were being set up for the closing ceremony. That was as close at Mattiace got to the green jacket.
Final round is Weir's
The final round ultimately belonged to Weir, who fielded a call from Jean Cretien, Canada's prime minister, who was in the Dominican Republic watching on television.
"He said they were jumping up and down," Weir said. "They were very excited."
Bob Charles was the only left-hander to win a major, the 1963 British Open. He played a practice round with Weir two years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
"It's nice to win one for the lefties," he said.
Phil Mickelson finished third, two strokes behind, after closing with a 68. Mickelson was asked earlier this week which lefty he thought would win the next major.
It seemed like a joke -- but not any longer.
The only other time Weir was in the final group at a major, he was tied with Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. Weir shot 80, but it wasn't a wasted effort.
"The tough putts, the ones around 8 feet that you need to win, I missed almost every one I looked at at Medinah," Weir said. "I don't think I missed one today."
Weir and Mattiace finished at 7-under 281, the highest winning score at the Masters since 1989.
Weir won for the third time this year, and all six of his PGA Tour victories have been comebacks -- none more special than this.
Until Sunday, the most nervous he has ever felt was watching Canada win the gold medal in hockey at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
"This was definitely nerve-racking," Weir said. "I tried to gather myself on each putt. Every putt on this golf course is tough."
Woods, who stumbled to a 75, slipped the coveted prize over his shoulders.
"Thanks, Tig," Weir told him. "It feels good."
Woods was only four strokes behind to start the final round, and history seemed to be there for the taking.
He gave it all away with one bad decision -- a driver on the shortest par 4 at Augusta National that went into an azalea bush, caused him to hit his next shot left-handed and led to a double bogey that derailed his chances.
The Masters was supposed to be won by the big hitters, but Weir proved again that the shortest clubs in the bag -- his putter and wedge-- can make up for a lot.
"Unbelievable," Weir said. "It's something I've dreamt of, something I worked very hard at. I'm having a hard time putting it into words because words won't do it justice."
So ended an unforgettable week at Augusta National.
Four days of rain.
The opening round washed out for the first time in 64 years.
A tepid protest Saturday against the all-male membership at Augusta National.
And the first playoff since Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd in 1990.
Weir now takes his place among so many others who have won the green jacket, including six-time winner Jack Nicklaus.
As a 13-year-old, Weir wrote a letter to the Golden Bear asking if he should learn to play right-handed. Nicklaus told him not to change a thing.
"I still have that letter in my office," Weir said.
He now has a green jacket, and a spot in the Champions locker room upstairs at Augusta National.
The final round lived up to its billing, but thousands of fans who streamed through the gates at 8 a.m. -- almost seven hours before the leaders teed off -- could never have guessed what was in store.
There was an amazing array of shots that sent cheers resounding across Augusta National as one player after another worked his way into contention.
-- Mickelson, after hitting into a creek on No. 2, holed a 90-foot birdie putt and looked to the sky, wondering if this might finally be his year to win a major.
-- Mattiace pitched over the large mounds on No. 8 and into the hole for a birdie, and rolled in a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 10 from almost the same spot as Ben Crenshaw when he won his first green jacket in 1984.
-- Rich Beem, the PGA champion trying to prove that Hazeltine was no fluke, holed out from the fairway for eagle on No. 5.
But every charge came with a collapse -- none greater than Jeff Maggert's.
He started with a two-stroke lead over Weir, but it all ended in shocking fashion.
From the fairway bunker on No. 3, Maggert's approach slammed into the lip and caromed off his chest, a two-stroke penalty. He slapped his knee in disgust, his ball still in the sand and his hopes of a green jacket fading fast.
Maggert was lucky to escape with triple bogey, and managed to scratch his way back into the hunt until he reached No. 12.
His tee shot went into the back bunker. His sand shot skidded through the green and into the water. He dropped on the other side of Rae's Creek and dumped another in the water, finally walking off with an 8.
No one else got closer than two strokes the rest of the way, and it became a two-man race over the final six holes.